“Travel is the frivolous part of serious lives, and the serious part of frivolous ones,” is one of my favorite travel theme quotes by Sophie Swetchine, a woman well-regarded in the mid-19th century for her Paris salon gatherings.
I take my travel seriously and dedicated hours each day for the past month studying the options I had for our next two trips to Europe. At my disposal were the loyalty currencies listed below with 40 hotel nights planned:
- United Mileage Plus 58,000
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 133,000 miles
- Aegean Airlines 195,000 miles
- Choice Privileges 100,000+ points
- IHG One Rewards 425,000 points
- World of Hyatt 24,000 points
- Best Western 75,000 points
- Hilton 20,000 points
- 1 Marriott 35K free night + 6,000 points
- 1 IHG Chase 40K free night
- 2 Hyatt category 1-4 free nights
My travel planning has passed through numerous iterations from my original plan to concentrate our travel in Germany for October 2023 with travel in Greece and Malta in February 2024.
One itinerary focused on InterContinental Hotel stays in Berlin, Budapest, Ljubljana and Vienna to take advantage of my InterContinental Ambassador status and lounge access IHG Milestone benefit I redeemed earlier this year. That idea was dropped due to high cost of IC hotels averaging $140 per night.
Same result when I planned a December trip to Portugal with 12 nights at InterContinental Hotels and realized $1,800 is a bit rich for our not so rich finances.
Another itinerary was flying to several cities around Norway and burn through a few hundred thousand Choice Privileges points.
Last week I had settled on travel to Croatia, then changed my mind a few days ago in favor of moving the Croatia trip to April 2024 when places are opening up for the season rather than closing down as they do at the end of October.
After weeks of travel planning I ended up back to my original plan of three weeks focused on travel around Germany. I lived in Germany as a military brat in the 1970s and I spent a week in Berlin in 2012 and a week in and around Dresden in 2000 and again in 2007.
Kelley has only experienced several airport hotel transit overnights in Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich, Germany with many hours in German airport lounges over the past 25 years. I think it is about time she experienced some real German urban city lifestyle.
Cheap Flight Options from Norway to SFO
Airline tickets are fantastically low priced from Norway to San Francisco. For this reason, the heart of my travel plan focused on buying a United round trip ticket from Oslo to San Francisco. I finally finalized that flight plan with flights from Oslo to SFO at the end of our October trip and flying back to Oslo to start our winter trip.
Bergen BGO to San Francisco SFO priced at $325 round trip last week with SAS Scandinavian. Tickets are around $335 today. SAS was my favored transatlantic airline choice for a few years until Aegean Miles+Bonus stopped crediting 50% flight miles for their low fares around 2019. Air Canada and United are now the only Basic Economy fare class tickets earning Aegean miles credit on flights to Europe.
A simple round trip SFO-OSL ticket only offered the 6am hour flights to Frankfurt, Munich or Zurich at prices under $400. We flew that Frankfurt early morning flight in December 2022 and that was a rough schedule to make. That early morning flight out of OSL stole our last night away from The Thief Oslo to stay in closer proximity to the airport at Clarion Oslo Airport, a hotel nowhere near the same caliber. Also an expensive $32 in local bus fares to take us round trip between the airport and airport hotel.
For the past month Oslo to SFO has priced around $365 to $400 with all three alliances for travel from October into April. I ended up buying OSL-SFO tickets for $414 each using multi-city ticketing flying Lufthansa from Oslo to Frankfurt in the afternoon, stay overnight, then depart 23 hours after arrival in Frankfurt for SFO.
My preference is flying United nonstop from Europe to SFO for the option to credit economy class K fares to Aegean Miles+Bonus for 50% flight miles. Frankfurt-SFO-FRA on United Airlines earns 5,699 elite miles with Aegean.
What I redeemed for our trips (and plan to redeem after buying more Choice and IHG points during Daily Getaways):
- Aegean 70,000 miles + $83.36 for 2 economy tickets SFO-Copenhagen, Denmark.
- United 17,600 miles + $97.60 for 2 economy tickets Munich-Oslo, Norway.
- IHG One Rewards 449,000 points ($2,245 cost to buy) for 30 nights for average $74.84/room night with plan to buy 300,000 more IHG points for $1,500 during Daily Getaways June 12 offer. All but one 50,000 points IHG stay is already booked.
- Choice Privileges 120,000 points for 6 nights (Pending bookings when 100 nights prior to stay award availability opens for my travel dates). I plan to buy 220,000 Choice points during Daily Getaways June 19 offer.
- Best Western 48,000 points for 3 nights.
- Hyatt 6,500 points for 1 night.
Airline revenue tickets purchased:
- United multi-city Basic Economy tickets Oslo-Frankfurt (overnight) Frankfurt-San Francisco, San Francisco-Oslo round trip with purchased seats – $414 airline ticket + $59 seats = $473 x 2 passengers = $946 total with assigned seats. We are both Star Alliance Gold through Aegean Miles+Bonus and have free checked bag allowance and priority boarding when flying on United Basic Economy tickets, plus Star Alliance airport lounge access.
- Aegean Economy Flex tickets Oslo-Athens-Rhodes one way €53.85 x 2 passengers = €108.
- Aegean Economy Flex tickets Rhodes-Athens one way €28.41 x 2 passengers = €57.
- Aegean Economy Flex tickets Athens – Malta one way €49.69 x 2 passengers = €100.
Kelley will requalify for Aegean Gold elite through April 2025 after these United and Aegean flights. I will need about 4,000 miles more by October 2024 for Gold requalification for status through September 2025. That will likely be another $400 to $500 round trip ticket from Scandinavia to SFO for our spring 2024 trip.
Eventually we will need one way tickets to get back from Europe to SFO in spring 2024. By then I should be able to rack up 100,000 to 200,000 more frequent flyer miles with two or three credit card sign-up bonuses.